Once upon a time, Aston Martin and Volvo were unlikely stablemates under the purview of Ford, a company that really didn’t know what to do with either of them. On Friday, Volvo’s current majority owner, Geely, cemented an 8 percent stake in the British luxury brand. The Chinese automotive giant won’t get a board seat to go along with its stake, but it’s nonetheless an interesting development, because Geely has had an eye on Aston for a long time.
Geely’s acquisition joins that of the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund, which amounts to 16.7 percent, and Mercedes-Benz, which claims just under 10 percent. (Geely and Mercedes have their own thing going on too, it should be said.) Of course, we’d be remiss not to mention fashion magnate, F1 dad, Netflix evil boss and Aston CEO Lawrence Stroll, who’s got a slice of the pie as well.
Not too long ago, Geely was looking to snap up much more of the marque, as Financial Times explained around today’s news:
The Chinese group made several approaches for the company even before its initial public offering in 2018.
When Aston needed a bailout in late 2019, the Chinese group and Stroll pitched two rival offers.
Geely’s vision was to globalise the business’s production plans and push quickly into electric cars, in an echo of its Lotus investment.
But Stroll wanted to re-enter Formula One and focus on mid-engine supercars to rival Ferrari, in an effort to restore Aston’s luxury credentials.
The board ultimately backed Stroll’s vision, though Geely had not lost interest.
In July, Geely teamed up with Italian buyout group Investindustrial to launch a £1.3bn investment proposal that Aston rejected as “an attempt . . . to acquire a controlling and prospectively majority ownership position without any premium paid to existing shareholders.”
Geely’s desire to add Aston to its portfolio is a little strange when you consider that it’s sort of molding Lotus into Aston already. The Emira is perhaps a purer sports car than anything Aston would make, but the Eletre seems like a product better suited for the more luxurious of the two brands, as any Lotus diehard probably wouldn’t hesitate to tell you.
Aston Martin hasn’t had the easiest, well, existence, frankly — but things began to turn the corner after the successful launch of the DBX. Say what you will about performance brands shilling luxobarges, but there’s a reason why they’ve all done it: it keeps the lights on. And in the event Stroll ever looks to sell, I reckon he’d have a willing buyer at the ready.